A history of the environment of Fairland, Johannesburg

A history of Fairland

A Google Maps satellite image shows the Union Jack layout of ‘Union Park’

 

Seventy-year old Juliet Louw has not forgotten the Fairland of yesteryear. The Northcliff resident remembers the area when it was mostly farm land. She spoke on little-known facts about Fairland for Heritage Day.

According to Louw, it was after the second Anglo-Boer war that parents of the Weltevreden area decided to build a school.

“The first school began in 1903 with twenty pupils and clumsy, homemade desks below Madge Avenue. It soon burned down and they moved to a bigger house. The schooling was all in Hollands- in fact, Fairland School was the first school in the Transvaal where the teaching was done entirely in Hollands, not yet Afrikaans.”

The Weltevreden School became the Fairland Government School in 1907. Today it is Laerskool Fairland.

With infrastructural advances Fairland is now only a stone’s throw away from Johannesburg’s centre, but as Mrs Louw explained, it was not always so.

“When I was a child Fairland was incredibly remote from Johannesburg. In fact, I lived in Parkview and never heard of such a place until I was married. On passing out of Primary School, children had to attend high school as boarders and were taken by horse and cart to catch the train at Maraisburg station to Monument High in Krugersdorp.”

“The entire population of Fairland always spent New Year’s Day in the kloof at the top of Willson Street. It was the most entrancingly beautiful spot before the fences went up. There was a white cliff, one of which gave the Witwatersrand its name, and the ground was covered with green grass like a lawn, we who are now old know it so well. Even before the building of Northcliff began, people were carting these stones to Johannesburg and selling them to builders.”

Another interesting bit of history gained from Mrs. Louw is about the park bordered by Kessel, Maria, Johannes and Cecilia Streets. Robert Willson, a well-known land surveyor at the time, laid the park. The trees were planted in diagonal rows to mimic the design of the British flag. Today, the layout can be seen from Google Maps Satellite view, though some of the trees are no longer in place.

“The koppies are a catchment area and it is sad to think how indiscriminate building has affected this important ecological factor in a land where there is never enough water. But as is the case with any community anywhere in the world, Fairland has grown out of the joys, sorrows, hopes and schemes of men and women, for that is the stuff of history!”

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